Yellowstone eruption would be 'devastating' says Oppenheimer

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Volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer warned that a massive eruption from the Yellowstone volcano could cause major shifts in the global climate. During an interview with Express.co.uk, he said a massive eruption that emits large particles of sulphur would be the most devastating. The sulphur floating up into the stratosphere would result in a cooling of the Earth’s temperature, ultimately making it harder to grow food globally.

Mr Oppenheimer said: “The regional picture, depending on where we are in the world would be very devastating.

“It would have long-lasting impacts, just because it would have impacts on communication and infrastructure, salting up of reservoirs.

“It would have all kinds of impacts on any basic functioning society.”

The volcano expert noted that in addition to this, an eruption from Yellowstone would result in a climate shift.

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He said: “The other angle is that volcano change global climates.

“Not so much by the output of ash but rather the emission of sulphur.

“Very large eruptions don’t necessarily emit more sulphur than smaller ones.

“But if they do, very large amounts of sulphur gasses that are injected into the stratosphere, 20km above sea level, they oxidise to make tiny particles to make sulphuric acid.

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“They are so small that they take months and years to rain out of the atmosphere.

“They are just the right size to reflect some sunlight back into space and that has a cooling effect of the Earth’s surface.

“I would say that the sulphur emission matters more than the size of the eruption.”

Mr Oppenheimer went into greater detail about how a shift in climate could impact the whole world going forward.

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He said: “We could be looking at impacts, particularly to the Northern Hemisphere, so North America and Eurasia.

“We are talking about impacts to crops and agriculture as you can expect shorter growing seasons and lower summer temperatures.

“These are not so good conditions for agriculture and pasture, grazing animals.”

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